SBD/Issue 98/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • The A-Rod Story: Rodriguez, Boras Planning Response To SI Report

    Boras Helping A-Rod Prepare
    Response To SI Report
    Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez yesterday returned to the U.S. from the Bahamas and "huddled with his longtime mentor, his once-estranged agent" Scott Boras, to prepare to address a Sports Illustrated report that he tested positive for steroids in '03, according to King & Mangan of the N.Y. POST. Boras yesterday said he spoke with Rodriguez on Saturday night and planned to speak with him again last night. Rodriguez and Boras "had a falling-out" in '07, and while the two have since reconciled, Rodriguez has been "relying on guidance" from Guy Oseary, who manages Madonna. But a friend of Rodriguez said that he is "better off listening to Boras than Oseary." The friend: "I feel like he needs help with stuff right now. When they were a tandem, there was more good than bad. For a little while now, it's been one nightmare after another." Dodgers coach Larry Bowa, who was a coach with the Yankees from '06-07, said of Rodriguez' forthcoming response to the report, "If he tries to fight this, he is done" (N.Y. POST, 2/9). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff reports the Yankees "have no choice but to support" Rodriguez, but they "don't anticipate being heavily involved in the preparation of any public statements." A source said of Rodriguez, "He's got to clean up this mess. He's got the keys to the kingdom. It's his show." Davidoff notes when the Yankees "reached out to Major League Baseball on Saturday to try to confirm the story, they were informed that the 2003 test results are anonymous and confidential." The Yankees are "as much in the dark as everyone else," and they will "see what A-Rod has to say before fully forming their crisis-management plan" (NEWSDAY, 2/9).

    THE REPORT: SI's Roberts & Epstein cited four sources as saying that Rodriguez in '03 "tested positive for two anabolic steroids," as his name "appears on a list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs" in MLB's survey testing. As part of a joint agreement with the MLBPA, the testing was "conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing" across MLB in '04. Rodriguez Thursday declined to discuss the test results and said, "You'll have to talk to the union." MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations Rob Manfred Saturday in a statement said because the '03 survey testing was "intended to be non-disciplinary and anonymous, we can not make any comment on the accuracy of this report as it pertains to the player named." Meanwhile, three MLBers said that Rodriguez in early September '04 was tipped by MLBPA COO Gene Orza that he "would be tested later that month." Rodriguez declined to comment on whether Orza warned him. Orza Friday said of the tipping allegations, "I'm not interested in discussing this information with you" (SI.com, 2/7).

    HOW THEY GOT THE STORY: SI's Selena Roberts said she and SI's David Epstein, with whom she co-authored the report, were "working on a profile" of Rodriguez when they "began hearing rumors about steroid use." Roberts: "You hear a lot of things in this business, so we went about our due diligence in nailing down the truth." Roberts said they contacted the MLBPA and gave Exec Dir Donald Fehr "two days to respond." After no response, Epstein on Friday went to Orza's office, where he declined to discuss the situation (SI.com, 2/8). Meanwhile, Roberts approached Rodriguez last week in Miami and asked him about the reports. Roberts: "As soon as I told him what we had, his response was really not a response. His response was to tell me to call the union” ("Nightly News," NBC, 2/7). She added Rodriguez "seemed surprised that I would even ask the question” about possible steroid use ("World News," ABC, 2/7).

    STILL ON FOR UM FUNCTION: In New Jersey, Pete Caldera notes while there is "no word about when Rodriguez might speak” publicly for the first time since the report surfaced, the Univ. of Miami (UM) is scheduled to honor Rodriguez Friday at a "dinner to rededicate its baseball field, Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park." Rodriguez donated $3.9M to the school for the project. An associate of Rodriguez said that he "still planned to attend the event," and a UM spokesperson said that the event "would go on as scheduled" (Bergen RECORD, 2/9). In N.Y., Joshua Robinson writes because the UM event is a fundraiser that "depends heavily on Rodriguez's popularity and charisma, the dedication could turn into an early gauge of how much his image will suffer." The UM athletic department charged guests $75 each and $1,000 to sponsor a table at the dinner (N.Y. TIMES, 2/9).

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  • The A-Rod Story: Is Union To Blame For Not Destroying Old Tests?

    Many Feel MLBPA To Blame For Rodriguez'
    Being Linked To Positive Tests In '03
    The MLBPA is "to blame" for allowing Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez’ name to be leaked to Sports Illustrated as one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in ’03, as the union “could have destroyed the tests,” according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS (2/7). In N.Y., Michael Schmidt writes Rodriguez' test sample from '03 "could have been legally destroyed late that year" by the MLBPA, along with "all other anonymous samples from that season." And the '04 testing "continues to be the subject of questions about whether some players were given notice by the union that they were about to be tested" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/9).The AP's Tim Dahlberg noted the tests were "supposed to be destroyed, and the players never named." But two of the biggest names in baseball -- Barry Bonds and Rodriguez -- "have now been outed, and you can only wonder how nervous some current and former players are as the battle over the samples is waged in court" (AP, 2/7). Former MLBer Todd Jones wrote, "This was supposed to be a 'totally anonymous' test. MLB told us this was a fact-finding test only. The results were to be used to determine if further steps should be taken. ... Collusion is alive and well. Ask the veteran players who are fighting the stigma of being tied to the steroid era. They are losing jobs to young guys who have been around since real testing started" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/7). Baseball HOFer Tony Gwynn said the MLBPA is "going to have to take responsibility and come up with some answers." Gwynn: "They convinced the rank-and-file to take tests. That nobody would find out the results. Well, why didn't they get rid of the tests? Nobody would ever find out the results" (USA TODAY, 2/9).

    WHAT ABOUT OTHER PLAYERS ON THE LIST? In Boston, Tony Massarotti noted there reportedly were 103 other names on the list of players who failed the '03 test in addition to Rodriguez. Massarotti: "Who are the others? Why don't we know? ... We cannot help but wonder why certain sources selected Rodriguez's name from a list of 104 and streamlined it to the nation when 103 others effectively were ignored" (BOSTON.com, 2/8). Free agent P Curt Schilling Saturday on his blog wrote, "I’d be all for the 104 positives being named, and the game moving on if that is at all possible. In my opinion, if you don’t do that, then the other 600-700 players are going to be guilty by association, forever. ... It appears that not only was it 104, but three of the greatest of our, or any, generation appear to be on top of this list" (38PITCHES.WEEI.com, 2/7). In Dallas, Evan Grant wrote MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "need to convene another emergency meeting of the minds and make all the test results from 2003 positive." The union needs to "prevail upon those players named in those reports to make public apologies," and then MLB and the MLBPA "need to get to work as soon as possible on adopting an anti-doping policy in line with the strictest in sports today" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/8).

    WHO WOULD HAVE LEAKED INFO? In N.Y., Thompson & O'Keeffe write under the header, "Who Ratted Out Alex Rodriguez?" The list of people who knew Rodriguez was on the list is "short: a scorned player or teammate, a rogue union official, a vengeful prosecutor or federal agent or even somebody close to the player himself." The Rodriguez test results "could only have come from a handful of organizations and people who had knowledge of the 2003 drug testing results" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). N.Y. Times columnist William Rhoden said of Rodriguez' test results being released, “If I’m the (MLBPA), I am incensed, I am enraged. I want to find out who leaked it, why you leaked it, get to the bottom of this. … Here’s your classic confrontation between the media -- we want everything out -- and the people who want their rights protected, who say, ‘Who did this to me?’” He added, “This goes to the very highest reaches of baseball” ("Today," NBC, 2/8). 

    COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote, "Perhaps the union is getting a bad rap, but it has been on the wrong side of this issue at every turn. For years, union officials refused to acknowledge the extent of the steroid problem. ... We should never have learned that A-Rod tested positive, but now we know. His image, the union's image and MLB's image will not easily recover, no matter how much spin they all apply" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/8). In Denver, Terry Frei writes, "The biggest miracle in all of this is that the A-Rod results didn't leak sooner. It's a betrayal they were leaked at all" (DENVER POST, 2/9). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said of the union, "It turns out these guys can’t protect anybody. They’re incompetent in the terms of protecting their membership after trying to throw a human shield in front of them for the entire steroid era” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 2/8).

    Report States That Orza Tipped A-Rod
    Off To Upcoming Drug Test
    UNION JUNCTION: In N.Y., John Harper writes the negligence of Fehr and MLBPA COO Gene Orza is "ultimately responsible for outing Alex Rodriguez, and surely others to follow." Harper: "Isn't it time they pay a price for their transgressions? Isn't it time someone made them disappear? If only someone could." It is "likely to get messy again, and scary for players whose names are on that list," as players have "rarely challenged Fehr and Orza in public, or even in meetings behind closed doors." One former MLBer said, "It would take an organized movement. And players aren't going to want to get involved with something like that" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). In Houston, Richard Justice writes MLB players "should be angry" that Fehr "fought testing at every turn and seemed committed to allowing players to do whatever would make them the most money." Justice: "Nice going, Donald. You should be proud. Your reputation is toast, too. If you had an ounce of decency, you would get out" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/9).

    TIPPING THE PITCH: The SI report claims Orza tipped Rodriguez as to when drug tests would be issued in September '04. In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell wrote by doing so, Orza was "either trying to rig the results of those 'surveys' to protect the entire flock of drug cheats in baseball or he was seeking to individually protect" Rodriguez. Instead of "trying to rid baseball of designer drugs," the MLBPA was "actively keeping the drug era alive and prospering." Orza and Fehr "can no longer be trusted, and that spells trouble for baseball's most powerful men." Burwell: "What happens now, when the tie that bound the union together for so long -- unquestioned and unshakable trust -- is now exposed as a flimsy sham?" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/8). MLB Network’s Bob Costas said of Orza tipping players, "You say what you want about the union and whether you disagreed with some of their positions, but they were always scrupulously honest. You never caught them in a lie. You never found them in any sort of impropriety in terms of the basic agreement. ... Donald Fehr and Gene Orza were always above reproach when it came to that. This is serious, not just for the particulars of this but for what it says for the union’s position overall on this issue” (MLB Network, 2/7).

    DAMAGING CLAIMS: SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote the allegations that Orza tipped off Rodriguez "could be extremely damaging, threatening the gains in trust" MLB and the MLBPA "have made over the years." The report "has to be shocking to MLB, to think it thought it had a partner in good faith negotiations to clean up the game, only to read the union is actively protecting possible drug cheats." The report "potentially has enormous implications" (SI.com, 2/8). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes the MLBPA "should never be in the position to play sheriff, but it damned straight ought not to be an abettor, either" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/9). CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller wrote the best the union could offer on the subject of performance-enhancing drugs was "ignorance ... at best, outright negligence at worst." Orza as recently as '04 "compared steroids to cigarettes." And if Orza "shouldn't have been tossed overboard for stupidity and arrogance then, he should be now with the report that he systematically was tipping players back in '03 of when the testers would arrive" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/7). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote Orza should be in trouble for tipping Rodriguez. Davidoff: "Will he be? Only if the union's constituency demands change" (NEWSDAY, 2/8). In S.F., Ray Ratto wrote, "Nobody within the baseball establishment is to be trusted on this issue. Ever, in any context. Not Bud Selig or his 30 bosses. Not Don Fehr or the union hierarchy. Not the players, not the media, nobody." Ratto: "We deal here with an industry -- sports, not just baseball -- that isn't really all that keen about addressing the problem because the industry knows that such a war will never end" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/8).

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  • The A-Rod Story: SI Report The Latest Blow To MLB From Steroids

    The Sports Illustrated report that Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in ’03 while with the Rangers is the "latest blow" for MLB, which is "confronting the fact that two of its best players over the past 25 years -- Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- are in legal jeopardy because of statements they made under oath that they never used performance-enhancing drugs,” according to Michael Schmidt of the N.Y. TIMES. Rodriguez is not in danger of being “ensnared in any legal proceedings” like Bonds and Clemens, and he will not be suspended by MLB because the test "took place before baseball imposed any penalties" for using PEDs. But the report “could affect his status in the game and could create a major distraction for him and his teammates with spring training set to begin this week." Meanwhile, the report also "revived an issue that may again prove troublesome" in the allegations that MLBPA COO Gene Orza tipped Rodriguez about the test. The report indicated that Orza also "warned several other high-profile players they were going to be tested shortly" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8).

    A-Rod Among Growing List Of
    Stars Linked To Past Steroid Use
    NIGHTMARE FOR MLB: The GLOBE & MAIL's Blair writes Rodriguez' reported failed test is the "single most devastating development for the game since this whole process of self-analysis and self-flagellation started." The report is MLB's "worst nightmare -- a great player, the best of his generation, going away no time soon" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/9). ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote, "How could baseball have allowed this to happen to itself? How? Can anyone recall any other sport that has ever committed such an insane act of self-destruction?" The report is worse than "any scandal in the history of sports." Stark: "It's not worse because it will cause massive numbers of people to stop watching or caring about baseball. … But the sport, as a unique paragon of American culture, is devastated. And that's forever" (ESPN.com, 2/8). CBS' Jeff Glor: "For a sport that’s already been badly damaged by steroids, it’s another strike” ("Evening News," CBS, 2/7). ABC's Kate Snow: "Another blow to the sports world" ("GMA," ABC, 2/8). In Chicago, Chris De Luca writes MLB has "taken another body blow." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "needs to speak out," as MLB is "garnering all of the headlines" a week before Spring Training starts. Selig could "provide some perspective," and at the very least, he could "explain how the ball got dropped on the secret survey becoming public information." But "close your eyes and it will all go away, seems to be his philosophy" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/9). In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse wrote, "Anything's possible from the Steroid Era, and yet Bud Selig, the man in charge during this long period of disgrace, continues as the boss" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/8).

    STEROID ERA NOT OVER YET: In Chicago, Rick Morrissey wrote, "As much as baseball wants the steroid scandal to go away -- remember investigator George Mitchell saying it was time to move forward? -- it can't possibly leave the premises now." Rodriguez was "supposed to be above the fray," as he "easily was the greatest hope to wipe out Bonds' home-run record" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8). SI's Selena Roberts, who was one of two reporters to break the story, said that Rodriguez was the player MLB "had counted on to sort of be their feel-good guy. Until now, he had always said he was the clean one, and I think most people believed that.” SI’s Tom Verducci: “At least publicly, this does pull baseball back into the vortex of steroids" ("Evening News," CBS, 2/7). In DC, Thom Loverro writes, "Can we stop with the ridiculous notion that somehow this is all going to pass? Can we please stop insulting everyone's intelligence that somehow time will make all of this look better?" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/9). In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes MLB "needs to just make it official" and "put an asterisk on the whole damn decade-and-a-half" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/9). In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes MLB's "entertainment value remains stronger than ever," but the sport's "integrity is dead." Sharp: "Don't every again refer to it as sport" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/9). In Houston, Richard Justice: "Welcome to the nightmare that won't end. ... We now understand there'll be no closure, certainly not now, maybe not ever" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/9). In Montreal, Jack Todd writes the "conclusion is inescapable: Baseball was and quite possibly still is so drug-riddled that every individual achievement going back at least as far as the mid-90s is called into question." Selig has "taken a lot of heat for presiding over this mess," but Orza and MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr are "at least as culpable" (Montreal GAZETTE, 2/9).

    BRONX BOMB: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the Yankees are "allowed to be surprised that the latest headlines about Rodriguez involve drugs just because the people running the team have been dumber than socks when the subject has been performance-enhancing drugs" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). In New Jersey, Ian O'Connor notes Yankees co-Chair Hank Steinbrenner in November ’07 signed off on a 10-year, $275M contract for Rodriguez, "never mind that the fan base couldn't stand A-Rod, and that the DNA of the game's most gifted player was so clearly missing that indefinable winner's gene." The signing will "go down among the most devastating mistakes in Yankees' history, a truth scheduled to be reinforced" if Rodriguez breaks the career home run record. The Yankees "can't void Rodriguez's contract," and they "can't even play the role of Tom Hicks and eat a healthy chunk of A-Rod's wage for his next employer." O'Connor: "There isn't going to be a next employer; Rodriguez is too radioactive for any team to take. So this is Hank's legacy" (Bergen RECORD, 2/9).

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  • MLB Says Free Agent Talks With Clubs Are Within CBA Boundaries

    Manfred Defends Fixing
    The MLB Credit Line
    MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations Rob Manfred acknowledged that there are "conversations between the commissioner's office and the 30 clubs about free agents but said they engage in no conversations or practices that" the CBA prohibits, according to Murray Chass of ON BASEBALL. Manfred: "We don’t cross-fertilize. If a team tells me we offered X, I don’t tell other teams. Ever since I’ve been here, whether the contract requires it or not, we have been very careful about swapping information from one club and giving it to another club. It can be a practical problem. If I disclose something a club has told me in confidence, I may get in trouble with the first club." Manfred also noted that the commissioner's office, when MLB's credit line was not renewed, "negotiated a new line of credit for $125[M], from which clubs can borrow." Manfred, "During this offseason, we undertook to inject liquidity into the market by redoing the industry loan agreements. Whenever you inject liquidity into the market it improves the free agent market so to suggest that we somehow have depressed the market artificially against this backdrop is ridiculous.” Manfred said that if MLB had not fixed the credit line, clubs "would have had to begin repaying almost immediately loans they had made on the industry line of credit." Chass wrote MLBPA has "not raised questions or suspicions about the clubs' free-agent activity," and agents "may have their suspicions, but for now they are keeping them to themselves." Wasserman Media Group Agent Arn Tellem: "Once we get finished and see how all this ends before the season starts there will be plenty of time, and I assume the union will assess what happened this winter, if it was the economy, which it could be, or if there were other forces beyond the uncertainty of the economic times." One agent said former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker's address to MLB owners last November about the poor state of the economy was a "pivotal moment." The agent said, "Volcker scared the hell out of the owners. Were owners acting on an individual basis after that meeting, or was that designed to implement something of a collective basis? That will be seen as a significant moment" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 2/8).

    Fehr Says Too Soon To Draw Conclusions
    About Marketplace And Economy
    FAIR OR FOUL? One MLB agent predicted that the MLBPA "ultimately will file a grievance alleging that the owners colluded to keep salaries down." On Long Island, Ken Davidoff reported the union has "reached out to most agents to survey their observations about this offseason, and whether any of the goings-on smell fishy to them." Davidoff wrote many people might "take such a grievance personally, given what we're going through in our country" (NEWSDAY, 2/8). MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that it is "premature to draw any conclusions about the marketplace and whether or not it can be directly correlated to the economy." Fehr: "We always monitor the free agent market, we have ever since the mid-'80s. When we have a significant number of players unsigned at this date, it heightens any concern that we have." Meanwhile, in Boston, Michael Silverman noted the union is "considering staging its own tryout camp for free agents, so they can stay sharp and presumably allow scouts to get another look at them" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/8). In Chicago, Greg Couch wrote, "How bad is the economy for baseball? Not long ago, we heard that sports were recession-proof." One has to wonder if it is "really as bad as the owners say or if they're just working together to keep salaries down" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/8). MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said of the economy, "There's no question; the clubs are affected like every other business. We don't live in a detached environment" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/8),

    PASSED BALL: Free agent LF Manny Ramirez last week rejected a one-year, $25M offer from the Dodgers, and an AL exec said, "I'll be honest, I never thought Ramirez would walk away from a deal like that. ... Unless a team like the Yankees comes in at the last minute and gets it done, I just don't see where he's going to make more than $25[M]." In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote the "reality of the market -- at least the way it's been presented -- is that as we get closer to the start of the season, there's less money available." Another MLB official said Ramirez' case is "strange because you understand why teams are not biting on his demands, yet you're surprised that teams aren't biting on his demands." Meanwhile, Cafardo reported commissions for MLB agents are "way down" this offseason (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/8).

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  • David Cornwell Raises Concern Over NFLPA Exec Dir Search

    The most prominent public voice to come out against the process of selecting the next NFLPA Exec Dir, athlete attorney David Cornwell, says it is "deteriorating quickly." In a February 5 letter to NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, copied to presumed leading candidates Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, Cornwell wrote, "I urge you to elevate the selection process to include all players, agents and other advisors in the dialogue." Web site ProFootballTalk.com first reported that Cornwell had sent the letter. Cornwell, one of the final nine candidates for the job, was among four prospects removed from consideration last month by the NFLPA executive committee, leaving five candidates for the leading post in sports labor. Some insiders were surprised by his removal, having speculated he would survive the final cuts and go to the NFLPA annual meeting in Maui next month, where player reps will elect the next executive director. In the letter, Cornwell characterized the search as being "in complete disarray." Cornwell is not specific about the reasons, and would not comment on this point when contacted. Recently, a political brouhaha erupted when U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) said a letter sent on January 8 by four of his colleagues to the Department of Labor questioning the search process had been sparked by Vincent. Two of the letter senders, Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY), have denied that publicly. Allegations from those close to Vincent have argued that the NFLPA staff is trying to impede his election, while those against him maintain it is the former NFL safety who is manipulating the process. Either way, Cornwell worries in the letter that whomever is elected next month by the 32 player representatives could lead a divided union that the NFL owners will exploit in coming labor talks. His removal from the search could be seen as leaving him with an ax to grind, but he wrote his letter sprang from "a duty to protect the interests of NFL players." A source close to the NFL said that, while conventional wisdom considers a troubled search process as an advantage for the league, it is not in the owners' best interest to have a wounded partner across the table who would be unable to speak for all the players (Kaplan & Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). 

    Troy Vincent, If Elected,
    Could Fire Top Execs
    REDUCING THE FIELD: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Mullen & Kaplan report the NFLPA this week will reduce the finalists for the Exec Dir position from five to three, but "critics are questioning whether the winner will be able to effectively lead America's largest sports labor group because the process has become so clouded by politics." Some industry sources believe that as a "result of the chaos" stemming from Vincent's alleged interaction with Congressmen involved with the NFLPA's search, "anything could happen." Sources indicated that Vincent is "seen as having a plan to fire many top executives at the union," including interim Exec Dir Richard Berthelsen, while Armstrong would "save jobs of longtime union staff" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/9 issue). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole noted it is unlikely that the NFLPA Exec Committee would "allow Vincent to make significant firings as the union heads into labor talks with the league." Eagles S and player rep Brian Dawkins said he would "have a hard time seeing us go into negotiation with the owners without" Berthelsen and NFLPA Outside Counsel Jeff Kessler (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7).

    PLAYING POLITICS: YAHOO SPORTS' Cole wrote the battle for the NFLPA's Exec Dir vacancy has become "very political, very ugly and potentially very harmful to the hopes of avoiding labor strife in the next few years." Giants C and player rep Shaun O'Hara: "This is not a good time for us to be divided." Former NFLPA player rep Roman Oben said, "Whether it's Troy or Trace or any of the other candidates, we've gotten into tearing down their credentials rather than hearing their ideas. ... What's most disturbing to me is that we've gotten to this point that we view the NFLPA almost like a business because of all the money that's involved, and really what it's supposed to be is an organization to service the needs of the players." But Dawkins said, "I look at it as a positive thing for the union. If this causes player reps to look into their laptops more to understand the union issues and learn about the [CBA], that's a good thing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7).

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  • DIS Working To Accommodate Fans As Daytona 500 Approaches

    NASCAR Cuts Ticket Prices For Daytona 500
    To Appeal To More Fans Dealing With Economy
    Daytona Int'l Speedway (DIS) officials are "slashing ticket prices" for Saturday's Daytona 500 and "have been working with local hotels in order to stop the price-gouging and make rooms more affordable for fans during these dire economic times," according to Mike Bianchi of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. But Bianchi wrote, "Why is it that NASCAR and its track owners are only now trying to take care of the fans? Shouldn't this have always been their standard operating procedure? ... Surely the national economy is mostly to blame, but so, too, is NASCAR's arrogance. The powers-that-be never fathomed there could be 10,000-15,000 unsold Daytona 500 tickets only a week before a race that for last year sold out the previous October" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/8). In Virginia, Dustin Long wrote, "Now is your time, NASCAR Nation. As the recession forces many of you to make tough choices, it also makes your voice louder. Your actions -- from how often you attend races to how much you watch on TV -- will make clear what you really think of NASCAR. And what the sport needs to do to keep you. ... Consider this your year, 'The Year of the Fan'" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 2/8).

    MAKING NOISE: Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Thursday at NASCAR Media Day said track owners and operators "need to go back to work. ... They ain't had to sell tickets for a long time and none of them remembers how or knew how or ever learned how. ... They can dump that responsibility on drivers all they want, but the responsibility really lies in their hands. ... We already do a lot. We do (expletive) plenty." Meanwhile, SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith had suggested that drivers "do more to help racetracks sell tickets," and Earnhardt said, "I don't really want to go after Bruton; he is way too big." Earnhardt: "I am not telling anyone how to do their job" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/7). More Earnhardt: "I just wish it was easier to go see a race. I want the fans to have whatever they want. I want the racing to be like they want it. I want the drivers to have such diverse personalities that everyone has a favorite. ... You remember how it was 10 years ago? It seemed like nobody was really complaining about little things like camper parking, the traffic or the cost of a parking pass for the infield, whatever. ... Now these are big issues for some reason. (NASCAR) has to figure out how to fix that" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/7).

    Writer Feels Daytona Speedweeks Needs To
    Adjust Its Schedule To Be More Fan Appealing
    WHERE'S THE BUZZ? In North Carolina, Ed Hardin writes, "One week from the 51st running of the Daytona 500, there's no buzz in the air. ... With banks failing and companies laying off workers at an historic rate and the global economy wrecking before our eyes, we start another racing season with fewer teams, fewer impact drivers and fewer fans" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 2/9). In Charlotte, David Poole writes Daytona Speedweeks "badly needs a schedule shuffle." Saturday's Budweiser Shootout "should be a one-day event this Wednesday," and Thursday "should be media day and a fan fest, with drivers spending half a day inside the track meeting fans and half with the media talking about the Daytona 500 and the season ahead." Friday "should be Daytona 500 practice, an afternoon Truck Series race and the Gatorade Duels to set the 500 lineup at night," while Saturday is "Cup practice and the Nationwide race, and Sunday is the 500." But that is "not going to happen because there are fans' pockets to be emptied, and it behooves everyone who does the fleecing to have people here for nearly two weeks" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/9).

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  • UFL To Kick Off In October, Pelosi's Spouse Buys Clubs

    The upstart United Football League (UFL) today announced it will begin play in October with its "UFL Premiere" season, which will feature four teams playing in at least seven cities. The first four teams will be based in Las Vegas/L.A., N.Y./Hartford, Orlando and S.F./Sacramento. During the course of the UFL's six-week season, the four teams will travel to each city for games, culminating in a Championship Game tentatively scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas. The UFL is being funded in part by a consortium of investors that includes S.F.-based investment and consulting company FLS, Inc. President Paul Pelosi, which paid $30M to operate the league. The UFL also is in final negotiations with a sports cable net for a weekly nationally-televised game (UFL). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan reported the investment group led by Pelosi, the husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), will serve as the owner for the four teams. UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue said that the UFL was "originally envisioned as a six-team, six-owner league but had to scale back its ambitions because of the economy." Huyghue added, "The real focus is to treat this is a soft launch and come back strong in 2010." Huyghue said that the league will have $16M of "labor costs in its planned four-to five-week kickoff season." The six teams were originally to have salary caps of $20M each and $12M salary floors. Acting UFL COO Frank Vuono said that the league is "in advanced talks to play" at The Home Depot Center in L.A., at Hofstra Univ. on Long Island, at AT&T Park in S.F., at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Connecticut, and at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Vuono also "identified Memphis, Sacramento and Birmingham, Ala., as other cities that could host games" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/9 issue).

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  • League Notes

    NFLPA Files Legal Briefs Claiming
    Burress Received 'Excessive' Punishment
    In N.Y, Ralph Vacchiano reported the NFLPA Friday filed legal briefs "in one of its two 'non-injury grievance' claims against the Giants for what it had previously called 'excessive' punishment levied after" Giants WR Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg in November. A league source added that a major issue is Burress' potential future earnings, as Burress' contract indicated that he "could lose as much as $27[M] of the $35[M] he could have earned during the five-year deal he signed in September" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/8).

    INSIDE INFORMATION: In N.Y., Michael Schmidt cited court documents as indicating that former NFLer Dana Stubblefield provided the NFL "with information about the use of performance-enhancing drugs among players as part of his plea agreement with federal authorities." Stubblefield's sentencing documents indicated that he gave members of the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California "the names of players, trainers and others associated with the league who may still be involved in 'activities with illegal drugs in professional football'" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).

    SUMMER PLANS: In Boston, Marc Spears cited an NBA source as saying that "there would be no five-on-five games, referees, or team coaches during" the league's predraft camp this year. Physicals, drill work and interviews "will still be conducted" at the camp, which is "also expected to be moved from Orlando back to Chicago." The games "were considered the most valuable part of the evaluation process, and underclassmen could be hurt without them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/8).

    AMERICAN MADE: Design engineer Ken Anderson indicated that "a formal announcement of a two-car American Formula One team to be based in the Charlotte area is planned for later this month." Anderson, "one of the two principals" in the F1 team, said that "'95[%] of what you might have seen' about those plans in publications and on Web sites covering the world's most popular form of motorsports is true." Anderson added that the team "is close to signing one driver for the team that would debut in 2010" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/9).

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